Who will crack the top 10 next year, let’s take a look at who may crack the list from a great 2020 “regular season”.
1-10, in order:
The Panthers running-back was the front runner for MVP through 8 weeks of the 2019 NFL season.
The team fell apart, so his chances of receiving the award shattered. Without a doubt, McCaffrey and Lamar were both video game like in their performances. Lamar, along with Russell Wilson, managed to come ahead of C-MAC, but C-MAC could very well flop places with the two QBs after 2020.
McCaffrey became the third running-back ever to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards. The scary part is that McCaffrey can do it all, so there isn’t anything holding the elite running-back from stardom.
With an improvement at quarterback for the Panthers, with Teddy Bridgewater joining the squad, the Panthers should improve their win total and garner McCaffrey more attention for MVP.
The best overall player in the league that will make great plays through the air and on the ground, moves up from No. 6 in 2019 to No. 1 in 2020.
Drew Brees broke the career touchdown record last year and single game completion percentage record in the same game. That was a game after the contest, where he dropped five touchdown passes on the 49ers No. 1 defense.
Drew Brees may have been injured for five games in 2019, and he chose a lousy spotlight in the Wild card round to struggle, but he will be in contention for the MVP award come next February. Brees will be able to show in Week 1 against Tom Brady that he still earns his elite stature.
The quarterback was averaging more passing yards in his 11 games than Tom Brady during his 2007 MVP season. Brees also posted a ridiculous completion percentage at 74.3% last season and recorded a “116.3” passer rating.
Did he just throw short passes and slants to All-Pro WR Michael Thomas? I’m not sure if short passes led him to throwing 5 touchdowns against the 49ers No. 1 defense last year, or when he broke the all-time career passing touchdown record against the Colts on Monday night.
On top of last year’s high level of production, all the Saints did was add Emmanuel Sanders, a tight end in the third round named Adam Trautman who could make an instant impact, and a healthy Kamara is coming back.
3. Derrick Henry:
Derrick Henry missed a game in 2019, but he still led the league in rushing yards.
Patrick Mahomes was the Super Bowl MVP and he routinely performed wild comebacks, but there was a better player in the postseason, named Derrick Henry. Derrick Henry “carried” his team and defenders late into the postseason.
Derrick Henry had 211 rushing yards, 182 rushing yards, 195 rushing yards, 69 rushing yards, with 5 rushing touchdowns in the 4 playoff games. People love to say that Henry had a “thousand carries” in those games. That’s just not true and he managed to average 5.5 YPC in the playoffs, which was better than his season YPC (5.1) and his YPC in 2018(4.9).
Similar to Mark Ingram, this Alabama produced running-back has increased his production with experience in the league. Henry is a true workhorse who will only improve his craft at 26 years old.
Henry should run away with the rushing title again, but have a strong chance to crack 2,000 rushing yards with a full slate of 16 games this time around under his belt.
4. Patrick Mahomes:
Mahomes could very well be the best football player to ever take the field. This quarterback took the No. 4 spot last year and won a Super Bowl, and that could very well happen next season.
Mahomes has a great supporting cast of weapons. WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce are top 5 at their position and ascending in their prime. Chiefs even drafted a running back in the first round named Clyde Edwards-Helaire and he should open up the field more. Andy Reid is one of the all-time greats when it comes to offensive play calling, so he will dissect defenses every week and every year.
Mahomes missed two games last year, so that hurt his chances of climbing higher on the list. Assuming Mahomes stays healthy, he should put together an MVP campaign. With saying that, I don’t think he takes off with 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes as he did in 2018.
Brees and Mahomes battled for the MVP in 2018 and Mahomes got the edge. I don’t see Mahomes putting up those numbers again with a team that’s coming off a Super Bowl hangover and teams are more aware of Mahomes ability and the Chiefs QB coming back with ease in the 2nd half of games.
Brees is a savvy veteran who’s very hungry coming off a wild card game where he got embarrassed on national television. His supporting cast of weapons got even better than last year and in 2018 where he barely lost the MVP race to Mahomes. Emmanuel Sanders is joining the OPOY Michael Thomas to help Brees light up opposing defenses, not to mention a healthy Kamara is back and better than any Chiefs featured back.
5. Chandler Jones:
Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald of the Rams grabbed the No. 3 spot in the 2019 list and another pass rushing phenomena in the same division may grab a top 5 spot in 2020.
That player is Chandler Jones and I’m not sure if a player has won a NFC defensive player of the year more quietly. Jones was voted the NFC defensive player of the year, yet he failed to crack the top 10 list this year.
“Aaron Donald plays on a struggling team and he gets double teamed at the defensive tackle position.” Chandler Jones played on a Cardinals squad that was worse than the Rams and he managed to rack out 19 sacks! Nobody talks about the pass rusher who has the most sacks in the last “5” years.
No team goes into a game against the Cardinals and feels the nerves about keeping pace on the scoreboard and scoring lots of points. Jones does not have lots of pass-rushing opportunities because opposing teams don’t have to pass the ball a lot against a Cardinals team that doesn’t scare people with their offense. Yet, Jones still finds ways to get after the quarterback and almost had 20 sacks.
Cardinals added Deandre Hopkins at wide receiver and QB Kyler Murray is going into his second year. Expect their offense to score more points and give Jones more opportunities to chase down QBs that need to match points with the rising Cardinals offense.
A better overall team will give Jones more respect for his production and should show that he’s not only the best defensive player in his division, but the entire league.
6. George Kittle:
Pro Football Focus ranked Kittle as the best overall player in 2019. Kittle was No. 7 in 2019 and he should be near that by coming in at No. 6 in 2020.
Kittle put together a clinic at the tight end position in 2019. Whether it was driving defenders to the ground and laughing, or hauling defenders on his back after making a big catch, Kittle stood out like a varsity player on a field of JV players.
The 49ers tight end was caught on the camera during the end of the Super Bowl saying that he will be back to the Super Bowl and he will be back with vengeance. Jimmy G should have a better season than his Super Bowl performance. Jimmy Garapollo is just growing in that offense and he should continue to improve his connections with Kittle in 2020.
Emmanuel Sanders is no longer on the team, so expect Kittle to get more targets and more plays than he had in 2019. The best tight end in the league fits well at No. 6 on the list, but may never get the recognition he deserves for blocking defenders to the dirt.
Russell Wilson was No. 2 in 2019 and he should take a slight drop in 2020 outside of the top 5.
Wilson had a fantastic year in 2019 because he did great with not having a surplus of weapons to blow the doors off teams. The tough part is that he doesn’t have much more help than last season.
I expect Wilson to have another great year and he could improve slightly, but I don’t see him making more of an impact than Mahomes or Brees who are ahead on this list. Mahomes has a top 5 WR and top 3 TE, while Wilson has a couple of solid receivers and an aging Greg Olsen at tight end.
A healthy Drew Brees who doesn’t plan on missing 5 games again this year, will swap places with Wilson in 2020. Brees will be healthy and his offense managed to improve, despite Thomas having one of the best seasons at the wide receiver position. As mentioned, Sanders was brought over to the Big Easy as well.
8. Julio Jones:
Jones wasn’t 100% healthy last year and he missed a game, but he was able to grab No. 11 in 2019.
He should crack the top ten in 2020 with a healthy season and a potential drop in production from Michael Thomas and Deandre Hopkins. Julio was second in the NFL in receiving yards while playing in one less game than Thomas. Thomas also received a historic amount of targets for him last year.
NFL Analyst Peter Schrager didn’t go out on a limb to say that Julio is the most underappreciated player in the league. The superstar wideout wasn’t even ranked in the top 10 for last year’s performance on a terrible Falcons team.
Julio should have another great individual season in Atlanta with little structural change to the Falcons offense. Meanwhile, Julio’s competition should see a decline. Thomas should have less targets with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders and Hopkins could see less production with a drop in quarterback play from Deshaun Watson to Kyler Murray.
Matt Ryan boldly said that he’s the best quarterback in the NFC South this off-season. With Tom Brady and Teddy Bridgewater joining the NFC South, there may be more points being scored in these divisional games, so expect Ryan to prove his worth by leaning on his No. 1 target time after time.
9. T.J. Watt:
Watt thrived in every phase in 2019 and he managed to pass his brother up in the 2019 top 100 NFL ranking.
Watt placed at No. 25 on this year’s list and he appears to be that player who cracks the top 10 eventually. He has a high motor, he plays the pass well, and he plays the run even better.
This is a player similar to Chandler Jones that should get more recognition as his team produces more wins. Big Ben will be back at quarterback and this defense is improving rapidly to be an elite unit.
T.J. should improve his production like his brother did early in his career and T.J. can show the world that he might be the better Watt. T.J. can play well in every phase of the game, so it’s hard to stop a player who can do it all and plays with a relentless motor.
The only thing holding Watts back from playing at an All-Pro level is injury, but T.J. hasn’t missed a game in the last two years so that’s good news for the younger bro.
10. Lamar Jackson:
Lamar is a very gifted athlete and he deserved to rank No.1 from the 2019 NFL season.
I know that he can survive at a high level of performance with his style of game. He’s a running quarterback who has a great arm as well, but he runs the football with identity. His injury concerns are still far from the reason why he could see a slight decline in his top 10 positions.
Lamar secured 43 total touchdowns, but that number isn’t the key to his Super Bowl hopes. When elite defenses play Lamar, they are perfectly fine with him rushing over 100 yards but forcing him to win through the air.
Lamar is 1-4 in big college or NFL games. He has struggled to make the big throws against big opponents and that’s held true in his MVP campaign. Against the 49ers elite defense, he had 105 passing yards and against the Titans he record 365 passing yards, but 2 interceptions. Teams will not only hone in more on him passing the ball, but Coach Harbaugh realizes that he needs to grow in that area.
Outside of the fact that the Ravens play a tough series of defenses this year, like the Titans again, Patriots a second time, they will have a much improved division in the AFC North.
The Bengals were the worst team in the whole league and they drafted Joe Burrow to change things around. The Browns have a new head coach and more talent added and the Steelers will have Big Ben back. I feel more comfortable with three elite, veteran quarterbacks ahead of Lamar on this list who are who have consistently played at an MVP level when healthy.